Insert sweeping statement about the impact of technology on our world here. Now that’s settled, let’s talk about feelings. Namely, trust. You might be thinking, “Is trust a feeling?” Well, yes and no. It’s both an emotion – you feel trust for someone – and a logical act – you decide to trust someone. Trust, to varying degrees, is the foundation for many of the relationships we cultivate in our lives, from trusting your loved ones, to trusting your bank. But a relatively new experience of trust for all of us is the trust we feel for our online relationships.

Trust effects every action we take online. From clicking a link or opening a document, and trusting that it’s not hacker-bait, to the trust we have for a brand, to believing that what we read, see and absorb is true and accurate. But the ultimate act of online trust is the sharing of our personal data.

We’re all still reeling from the ultimate trust breach that was Cambridge Analytica – the social media relationship equivalent of being cheated on. We’ve seen the damage this sort of failure of trust can do. Facebook and other social media channels are still scrambling to figure out how to hold our trust, purging fake accounts and attempting to police fake news and misinformation. But all the while, our data is being used. It always has been, but the difference is that more people know about it now. Informed consent has changed over the last five years. In the past, you clicked okay, but were you aware that Facebook took that as an okay to sell you products and sway your political views by targeting your fears? We certainly know that now. 

So, how has this changed audience behaviour?

We’ve talked about audiences leaving social channels when they feel their time is being wasted by inauthentic content. We’ve also talked about audiences seeking out safe spaces online, and using channels in unexpected ways. Another change is meaningful engagement. That might not seem so new – haven’t we always tried to create content that engages our audience? But the difference is that while before we were looking for likes and comments on our posts, now we need to go a step further and create actual spaces for these conversations to take place.  

While closed groups, forums and niche sites – GitHub, Slack, messaging apps, etc. – are nothing new, we’ve seen a lift over the past few years in their frequency of use, and a shift in how they’re being used. Rather than closed groups created for exclusivity, they’re now less about keeping the ‘riff raff’ out, and more about keeping the serious people in. Conde Nast used this strategy to great effect, creating exclusive travel groups where peers could discuss and recommend destinations. Group members are approved and vetted, and anyone not playing by the rules is removed to ensure a harmonious experience. It’s almost the opposite reason for why the internet was created – democratisation of information has now been tainted. Free speech includes hate speech, and finding like-minded people is called a bubble. But there is logic to people seeking refuge in more private corners of the web, and until we have a Circle-esque world where everyone and everything is transparent, it’s hard to see how else to keep the haters at bay. 

Channels where peer-recognised content is king are also having their time in the sun. Apps like WattPad and Masse, where audiences can go to find niche user generated content or reviews and opinions from trusted peers are becoming even more popular. This is an incredibly smart tactic from technology platforms, because they are removing the “trust me” element, and turning it into “trust your friends”. 
Perhaps the more important question is, how should our behaviour adapt in this new trust-as-currency online world? First of all, don’t just be compliant, be right. Or to put it another away, don’t be Ross “we were on a break” Geller. It’s tempting to do the bare minimum, and while GDPR ensures we’re all sticking to strict guidelines, it’s always worth asking yourself what value you’re offering your audience when you take their data. Over-collecting, collecting data you don’t plan on using, and using data for other reasons than intended are all breeches of trust. Being technically compliant, and actually offering something in return for requesting your audience’s data are two very different things. 

Is this going to help my audience get to the information they need more quickly? Is this going to enhance my audience’s experience of my site? Is this content going to spark meaningful engagement? Does this act of data capture ring true with my Employee Value Proposition? Will this cause my audience to trust me more, or less?

These are all questions worth asking yourself before undertaking any sort of recruitment marketing, but particularly those that have to do with capturing your audience’s data. 

Because ultimately, after all, if your audience doesn’t trust you… what’s the point?


Meagan is a blogger, Australian and digital strategist at AIA Worldwide. If you’d like to speak to her about GDPR, social media or the relative merits of vegemite vs marmite, you can get in touch with her or one of our team on +44 (0)20 7993 1300.

If you are looking for a technology and or creative solution to your recruitment marketing problems, please visit to see how our agency of experts can help you. 

Digital Strategist

Meagan is a bookworm and word lover from way back, and enjoys nothing more than a good story. Her role as Digital Strategist at AIA allows her to help clients find their own passion for words – in the form of content strategies and social media. Whether telling a story through social content or metrics and data, Meagan’s hunger for figuring out the who, what, when, where and why is almost as insatiable as her enthusiasm for brunch.

Chat books, breakfast and social strategies with Meagan on Twitter.